CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Earl Ma's crew wears T-shirts with his design at the Magic Island outrigger canoe launch. This weekend's Cancer Society Relay for Life will raise money for cancer research. The crew members are Tuyet Lu, left, Don Hayes, James and Amy Chong with son Aslan, Joanna Sablan-Yuen, husband Cliff Yuen and Patrick Williams. CLICK FOR LARGE
'Earl's Crew' recalls a unique life cut short
A cancer awareness event this weekend will celebrate Earl Ma
Earl Po-Wen Ma is remembered for many things: He was an architect, cartoonist, an avid fan of auto racing and "The Simpsons," a photographer, an award-winning freelance motor sports journalist and collector of motor oil cans.
He had accomplished all of that and more by June 7 when he died of cancer. He was 35.
Some of his Punahou 1989 classmates have formed "Earl's Crew" to honor him at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life this weekend at Magic Island.
"It's a wonderful, moving opportunity where you can really celebrate someone's life," said Dr. Don Hayes, team captain, who went to high school with Ma.
Friends writing in an online "Earl Ma Living Memorial" describe him as an "anomaly," "a paradox," "original" and "unique."
One pictured him "running around the track fumbling to get that perfect shot with four or five cameras hanging around his neck, an orange 76 ball hat and vest stocked with batteries, notepads, microphones, model glue ... his pants about six inches too short or tucked in his tall white socks and unmistakable knee pads."
Ma had won several awards from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. Some of his photographs were published in the New York Times and other publications.
He was diagnosed with cancer about three years ago and was hospitalized six weeks before his death, Hayes said. "He wasn't able to talk, but he convinced doctors to let him go to the Indianapolis 500. He ended up making it out there May 26-27. He had full support of all his friends on the mainland who made accommodations that allowed him to see the race."
WALK TO HELP CANCER RESEARCH
The American Cancer Society Relay for Life will begin with opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. Saturday and continue until 7 a.m. Sunday at Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park.
"Magic Island Goes Hollywood" is the theme. Teams are encouraged to dress or decorate campsites to represent their favorite movie or actor.
Teams will walk around the clock to raise funds for the fight against cancer.
Cancer survivors will open the relay, walking or using wheelchairs to complete the first lap.
For information, call 595-7544 or go to www.acsevents.org/hi/relay/magicisland.
Hayes said Ma's mother "was overwhelmed by the outpouring from the mainland" after his death from people with whom he had interacted in auto racing and gasoline/oil memorabilia interests.
He said Earl's Crew of 10 will celebrate their friend and former classmate by wearing T-shirts at the relay with one of his favorite cartoon creations, Rover Jackson.
Is that an animal? "We don't know," he said. "It looks kind of like a dog, but it's only part dog, according to Earl."
The character was the star of a comic strip Ma created in elementary school called "The Unions," based on the Union 76 Oil company, Hayes said. "It was always amazing the amount of detail that Earl put into these strips, his car models and in everything else he did. ... He did everything by hand back then, including coloring in the comics."
Hayes said Ma visited him in January in Atlanta, where he was working during the past four years with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "He went around, took photographs, did interviews ... attended racing events."
Ma had collected more than 1,100 different motor oil cans, according to RacingPress.com.
He had worked at Architects Hawaii Ltd. since graduating in 1994 from the University of Texas School of Architecture.
Hayes said he spoke to his longtime friend the night he died. "He was such a unique individual."